Britain Soccer League Cup

Premier League Preview: Fulham vs. Manchester City

1 Comment
  • Fulham have lost seven of their last eight PL matches
  • Man City’s average goals scored away from home is 1.50 per game, compared to 4.37 at home
  • The Cottagers haven’t won in seven-straight home games vs. City

On Saturday down by the River Thames, two teams in vastly different predicaments square off as Fulham host Manchester City (watch live on NBCSN, 10am ET and online via NBC Sports Live Extra) at Craven Cottage.

The home side have been in woeful form but new boss Rene Muelensteen has seen some improved performances which culminated in a 2-0 win over Aston Villa in their last home game.

As for City, their Jekyll and Hyde season continues as they demolished Arsenal 6-3 at home last weekend but are still struggling to grab goals and points away from the Etihad. Manuel Pellegrini’s men, despite losing Sergio Aguero to a lengthy injury, will be hoping to get back in the groove of things on the road when they face Fulham.

WATCH LIVE ON NBCSN AND ONLINE VIA NBC SPORTS LIVE EXTRA

If the Citizens shake off their travel woes and bag a win in West London, they could be joint-top of the league with Arsenal on Saturday night depending on how other results go. With a few injuries hampering their preparations, City will have to reshuffle their pack for this tight game against a Fulham side that’s eager to improve and pull away from the drop zone.

As for injury news, Fulham could be missing defenders Fernando Amorebieta and Brede Hangeland, while Hugo Rodallega is still out with a groin injury. While Pellegrini has a major concern at right back as Pablo Zabaleta injured his hamstring in their midweek League Cup win over Leicester City. Edin Dzeko, who scored twice in that game, should replace the injured Aguero in City’s starting lineup.

What they’re saying

Rene Meulensteen on Fulham’s squad gelling: “The players here are as good as gold. It’s a good squad with a lot of experience. The players are aware of the situation we’re in and how we can get out of it. They’ve been very supportive to me and I couldn’t ask for anything more. The only disappointment in the three games I’ve been in charge of is that we’ve only picked up three points when we could have had five or six. Other than that the players have been fantastic. They’ve started to buy into the way I want to play the game.”

Pellegrini on City’s improving form away from home: “I think the results of the first games playing away was not what we deserved. It’s very important for this team to win away. We won the three games in the Champions League playing away, that’s important. We won the two games playing away in Capital One also and in the Premier League the last two games we drew and we won, so I hope we will continue in the same way.”

Prediction

I just can’t see City messing up away from home in this match, especially with the chance to pile plenty of pressure on PL leaders Arsenal. That dominant win over the Gunners last week will be all for nothing if they can’t follow it up with a win against the Cottagers. The home side have improved, but I expect City to shade a tight game in what will likely be defense against attack, with Pellegrini’s superior forward quality to prevail. City win.

MLS Cup: Toronto FC all about the team

Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, center, celebrates his goal against the Montreal Impact with teammates Michael Bradley, right, and Steven Beitashour (33) during the second half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
Leave a comment

Toronto, Ontario (AP) Team has been the theme for Toronto FC in the buildup to the MLS Cup final.

From boisterous practices to team-first media interviews, the All for One club motto has been plain to see ahead of the championship game Saturday against the visiting Seattle Sounders.

“You don’t get to this point by mistake or by accident. You get here because a group of special guys who have all bought into a philosophy, an identity,” said Toronto midfielder Will Johnson, an MLS Cup winner with Real Salt Lake and Portland.

“I say the same about Seattle. They’re bought into what they’re good at. We’re bought in, very motivated and want to sacrifice and put aside egos to get to a point as a team to compete for the big trophy.”

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

Star striker Jozy Altidore, no fan of chatting with the media, was downright prickly when a reporter asked him if he had taken time to reflect on his personal journey to the championship game.

“No,” he said definitively. “This isn’t personal, this is a team game. We’re here to try to help Toronto to be a winning team. This has nothing to do with individuals. So it has nothing to do with what I’ve been through. This is what the city’s been through, what the fans have been through, what this club has been through. That’s far more important.”

Fullback Justin Morrow, a seven-year MLS veteran, has never played this deep into the season before.

“Each week we build on top of each other and we get closer as the year goes on. It really feels like it’s a culmination this week,” he said.

[ UCL: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw? ]

Coach Greg Vanney has made a point of praising the entire squad, including reserves who function as the scout team in practice. While he has done soccer’s equivalent of shortening his bench for the playoffs, the squad has stayed on point. If anyone has beefs, they have been kept to themselves.

That’s no small feat considering the salaries on the squad range from $7.12 million for star striker Sebastian Giovinco to $51,500 for youngsters Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh.

For Morrow, being part of a tight-knit group allows you to forget that it is your job.

“When teams aren’t doing well, players tend to focus on that – their job and not about the other people on the team,” Morrow said. “And I think when teams are doing well, it becomes about the relationships between the players.”

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
1 Comment

Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

Follow @NicholasMendola

Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

meninblazers
twitter.com/MenInBlazers
Leave a comment

Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

Subscribe to the podcast OR to update your iTunes subscriptions ]

Click here for the RSS feed ]

Follow @NicholasMendola

Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
Leave a comment

On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

Follow @NicholasMendola